Hello, everyone! Welcome to another week of Stuff We Like, brought to you by the letters C and F, and the number 25.
Meaning, Freddy is here.
Why should women care about heart health? Isn't breast cancer more important?
Well, breast cancer is important, any cancer is a hard, scary, difficult process to work through.
But the thing is, cardiovascular disease is THE NUMBER 1 KILLER of women in America. In fact, cancer is number 2 - and that's ALL the other cancers combined. Not just breast cancer. Following after that by a much smaller margin are chronic respiratory diseases, stroke and Alzheimer's.
You can check the CDC website for a breakdown based on race if you like, but the take away is the biggest health issue for women is their hearts. The signs for a heart attack are different in women than men, the signs for a heart problem can be written off often times, and the problems tend to be addressed only when women are older. Being older can effect the women's comorbidity when having to undergo a heart procedure like a valve replacement or a CABG.
The question is why? Why does it take so long for women to think something might be wrong? Why aren't doctors checking out women's heart health if it's such a problem?
Those questions are something the health field is still trying to address. One thing that plays a roll is perception and social practices.
Breast cancer effects a lot of women and families, and for a long time, the treatments left a lot to be desired. Mastectomies change a woman's appearance, and often challenge the perceptions of what society deems as feminity and being a woman. It is a physical thing we can see. The awareness has been there, putting money into understanding and treating this horrible disease.
So in a lot of ways, heart health is a less visible problem. A lump can be felt, but your heart? Those problems? They are something we feel, but are often attributed to 'getting older.' More tired? Not up to running around any more. That leg pain? Short of breath going up the stairs? Just out of shape. Right? Right?
Culturally women are often put in the caretaker roll - whether they have kids or not - or a roll of being self-sufficient. Women tend to not complain or go to the doctor because there are more pressing issues (or kids) to deal with. So when they finally decide there is a problem, there are often other health issues at hand too.
What I'm asking you to do? Listen to your body. Ask questions with your primary care giver. Think about how you really feel, have been feeling, and whether or not something has changed.
Are you exercising? Or better question - can you excercise? The ability to physically do things, to excercise is an indicator of heart health. Even a little bit of exercising each day can help. Studies have shown that it helps reduce the risk of heart disease no matter the weight of the woman. It's the ABILITY to exercise that's important.
A woman can be under that magic 25% BMI, but if she can't get up a couple flight of stairs without running out of breath, she's not in good shape and may have a problem going on.
Am I telling you to drop everything and start on the weights? No. Think small, you don't want to change your excercise routine drastically until you've seen your doctor. Make sure it's safe to start any big increase in physical activity.
But walking? Starting with oh, 10-15 minutes a day? Great place to start. See how you feel after a couple weeks, try to add on time, and go from there. And I repeat, talk to your doctor. Tell him or her how you've been feeling, ask what you can do to take care of your heart, and listen. Listening is so important. To your primary care physician, and to what your body is telling you. Don't just shrug off how you're feeling because 'I'm getting older.'
Make time to give yourself 15 minutes to stroll around the block and just stop to hear yourself. You need to take care of you, because you deserve to be healthy and happy.